Waterstones go back to their roots after rotten Christmas

15 January 2010

waterstones With Borders now a distant memory, Waterstones pretty much have the high street to themselves as specialist book retailers. But Christmas sales were shockingly bad with like-for-like sales in the five weeks to January 2 falling by 8.5 per cent and managing director Gerry Johnson heading for the exit door as a result.

The HMV-owned company have announced that they going back to basics and trying to be a ‘local’ book store again. For local people presumably.

That means less emphasis on flogging celebrity tie-ins and showbiz autobiographies, an area where Waterstones regularly fail anyway thanks to the deep discounting of the supermarkets.

It also means more shelf space to titles that are pertinent to the town or city where they are being sold, making more of the expertise of the chain’s staff while strengthening their online and digital offerings, with ebooks here to stay.

But is it too little too late? After all, if you can now browse through books online before buying them online, usually with a significant saving into the bargain, will people bother to traipse down to their local Waterstones for a mooch through the shelves?

So, crimefighters, what do you lot think? Can any of you even read? What number are we thinking of? Six? Nope. Try again.

14 comments

  • Ben
    Don't get me wrong, I enjoy having a wander around Waterstones every now and then. It makes me feel marginally more intelligent with its shiny surfaces, patterned carpet and leather chairs. But for actual book prices they are abysmal. Online companies traipse them no end on pretty much every front. Putting more locally relevant merch in is a good idea to a certain extent, but it will probably only draw in a few more of the oldies who want to see birds eye photos of their old garden or know which country paths they can walk down without getting mugged by the e-book reading hoodies that prowl the streets.
  • Nobby
    The only reason to go into Waterstones is to have a look before buying online, cheaper. It won't surprise me if they go the same way as Borders. Online viewing is not that great, as often you only get a few pages.
  • Tom
    The celebrity thing is the only reason I'd got Waterstones. Harry Hill was there a few months back at Bluewater, an absolute legend!
  • Grammar N.
    I pretty much use them solely for research. I find books I like the sound of, and then buy them online.
  • The L.
    What I don't like about Waterstones are the endless piles of the SAME book on about half a dozen tables. A product presence privilege for which the big authors and their publishers pay big money for! However it doesn't do Waterstones any favours from the variety front as it makes them seem like they have lots of a very few title indeed! Nine times out of ten I go in there and they do not have the book I want, rather than online competition for me. Or it's out of print and that's why I end up going online. If they'd invested in Print-On-Demand machines in every shop (now under £20k), they might have had some rejuvenation as no high street bookseller has yet done this.
  • donttouchthehair
    I used to work in a Waterstones (after they'd taken over Ottakars - remember them?) and their business mentality was abysmal. De-humanising the work force took the charm out of the place for us, so Lord knows why anyone else would want to go in there! Even with a staff discount, books were cheaper on Amazon Market Place!
  • Fella-Tio
    Ottakars FTW
  • MattWPBS
    If they get back to being a good bookshop, I could see myself going there more. Book's a physical thing, and I like to physically browse. Tend to find some good books by looking around that way. Get a good, DIVERSE stock in, and give the staff a fair degree of latitude when it comes to chatting with people, and I think they could be fine.
  • Kevin
    I popped into the Waterstones in Cambridge and it was rather grim. You can just tell noone gives a damn about the books there. I know it's not fair to compare all bookshops to online shops but even comparing high street bookshops some of their prices were a bit ripe. And the clearance sale? Clearance normally means selling things off at a reduced price! No not in Waterstones!
  • myiphoneisbroken
    ahh Ottakars - they were owned by my old best mates godfather (or uncle, I forget). They were really nice bookshops as well!
  • Joff
    Waterstones - normally too expensive for anything but emergency purchases when you know a supermarket won't have the title on their shelves, or so I thought. Tried to get a book in store last week, but they didn't have it - a cookery book by Ken Hom who is probably not fashionable compared to the Ramsays and Olivers of the world, so it wasn't in stock. So I went home empty handed, ordered it online and had it next day.
  • Richard P.
    This is the bad thing about the internet, all shops closing, everything on the net, meaning less jobs overall. I am really really worried about this, how are we going to pay the immigrants there dole money?
  • Zleet
    Waterstones really need to step up their web presence. They have a recognisable brand and could be making money hand over fist but the website is very basic for such a large store. At the moment I only use it to check stock in local shops. The other thing that annoys me about waterstones is the fact that my local has four floors and some genius decided that almost all the main floor should be taken up by crappy celebritard garbage.
  • Westy
    As an avid reader, I was pleased to receive a £20.00 Waterstones voucher for Christmas 2012. I have been into various branches 4 times since then (it's now April 2013) and have been unable to find anything anywhere near to approaching value to spend it on. I have, however, found their stores an extremely handy source of ideas for purchases and have jotted down several titles in my notepad during these visits which I've gone on to purchase online for a fraction of the price. There are paperbacks priced between £7.99 and £11.99 that are barely a centimetre thick, and what they're asking for children's books is completely disgraceful. Only idiots and/or people with more money than sense will pay these greedy greedy prices and be fooled into being up-sold by apparently permanent 'buy-one-get-one-half-price' tacky gimmicks. I can't see how they'll stay in business. End rant - anyone want to buy my book token?

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